Beta Files Podcast
Subject: March Madness
March 23, 2018. Andrew McCabe falls 27 hours short of full benefits, Putin wins in a landslide against…Putin, Trump calls for a plumber, the red head from Sex in the City wants to make love to the state of New York as their governor, and Mark Zuckerberg may finally get that front row seat in congress -hold on to your butts, I’m the Barbour and this is the Beta Files…
Welcome to the BetaFiles week three. On the show this week, we look at what Cambridge-Analytica is in lemans terms and how it may affect you. We’ll also note the Russian election of one, and break down the actual possibilities of Cynthia Nixon becoming the first Lesbian Governor of New York.
Dr. J will stop by to discuss smart phones in the classroom, and in our final segment this week, a special surprise for you – a tactic to make you listen to the whole podcast (maniacal laugh).
A funny anecdote for you before we go any further. This past week, NPR’s Steve Inskeep has been filing reports from Djibouti where Yemenis refuges have been fleeing in order to escape the civil war in Yemen. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why this is funny, and it isn’t. It has been a great set of reports that have exposed what the refuges have been living through as they have been forced to escape and leave their livelihoods behind for fear of their lives, a story that main stream media has not given much traction to due to the category five hurricane that is the white house.
However, what is funny is the endless juvenile possibilities that presents itself with the word Djibouti. For example, listeners are sure to chuckle when the passive tone of a female NPR correspondent introduces their own Steve Inskeep, deep inside Djibouti. The possibilities are endless, as noted by Inskeep himself, who, earlier this week, took to Twitter and noted, quote, “Just came home from a very serious trip abroad, covering very serious and somber things, and was greeted by a kid who asked me, ‘is Uranus in Djibouti?’” end quote. What makes me laugh isn’t the infantile joke that a 12 year old would find hilarious, but the pure irony that Inskeep himself found funny enough to publically give us all a good chuckle.
In times like these, and even more important, with the many tragic stories that clog our newsfeeds, it is noteworthy when we can find the small ray of light hearted fun, no matter how juvenile it may appear to be.
Thank you, Mr. Inskeep.
And now – HEADLINES…(soundbite)
Last Friday night, all hell broke loose when Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe on the grounds that McCabe was found to not show “candor” when he approved the release of material from two agents to the Wall Street Journal. McCabe fired back by saying that all actions he took in the matter were known by senior staff, and that the material handed over was not pertinent to the portion of the investigation that was still opened. He also attacked the Administration for singling him out for things he saw in the aftermath of the firing of his former boss, James Comey. The dramatic battle between Sessions’ announcement and McCabe’s statement the following day, was compounded when the President lobbed more insults at the FBI in his continuing war with law enforcement, choosing to use the incident to call out Mueller by name for the first time. John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers, also came out Saturday declaring that the investigation needed to come to an end as there has been no proof of collusion given by the special council. Trump proceeded to continue his attacks through Monday, which drew the ire of McCabe, Comey, a few Senators, and former CIA director John Brennen who called Trump out when he tweeted at the President, “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you.” Comey also noted that the American people will know the truth soon about Trump and what happened with Comey, alluding to his upcoming book. All of this just added more dramatic flare to an already chaotic investigation, appearing to quietly make things worse for Mueller.
But then on Monday, the Guardian ran a massive exposé that opened the floodgates to the latest Zuckerberg nightmare – Cambridge Analytica. It has dominated the headlines, and led to congress calling on Zuckerberg himself to testify about what can and is being done to make sure that this, and other breaches of Facebook in the past two years, never happen again, or are at least combated at the moment instead of coming out after the fact. Confused as to what’s really going on with the controversy? You’re not alone, so I will try to explain it in simple terms that we can all grasp.
A few years ago, two psychologists created a personality test that one Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian born American Researcher, took and created an app that could be used on Facebook under the title “this is your digital life” – Kogan, following Facebook protocol, noted in the terms of service for the app that the app could collect not only the personal data of the user taking the quiz (a quiz they had to pay for), but also the data of their friends who post information publically. Of the estimated 270,000 users who paid to take the quiz, over 50 million users data was collected through the “friends” loop in the app. All of this is legitimate per the Facebook rule book, however, the next step is where it gets shady as Kogan, hired by Cambridge Analytica, handed the information over for a flat $800,000 paycheck the firm claims was to cover the development of the app, not the collection of the data.
The claim of what happened once they had the data, is that once it was turned over to Cambridge Analytica, it was used to create psychological profiles of users which led to targeted political messages to sway voters through stories within their newsfeeds. Facebook claims that once they realized what was happening, they contacted both Kogan and Cambridge Analytica, and demanded, through breach of Facebook’s agreement, that the data be destroyed. Whether the material was destroyed or not is unknown, though there have been objections by several in the know that it has not been. Facebook is in hot water because the tech giant knew about the breach for two years, and had no plans on informing the public. Hence the disturbingly odd responses by Zuckerberg earlier this week when he tried to comfort the public through promises of tightened regulations and better oversight of the platform.
Why does all of this matter? Other than the fact that we now have yet another way that Facebook was hijacked and used to shape the opinions of voters during the last presidential campaign, it is who funded and oversaw Cambridge Analytica at the time that has the red flags flying at full mast. It was funded by massive Trump supporter Robert Mercer, and the board held Steve Bannon as one of it’s members. Add to the mix that a Russian who’s main job is researching American psychological habits and tendencies, and the fact that the Trump campaign used the data, and it smells bad. Like rotten broccoli and dead cat bad.
Speaking of Russian controlled elections, Putin was re-elected this week as he defeated himself in a race that came down to the wire. The results were so unpredictable, there are talks of an investigation into whether he colluded with Russia to get elected. More as the story develops.
Trump called Putin to congratulate him on his win, something that apparently his staff told him not to do in all caps (they learned that trick from the handy explanation on Fox News last week). The story in this one? Well, there are two – one, that he had to be told in all caps not to do something he would end up doing, and two that the memo leaked out, pissing everyone off. John Kelly was reported to be highly disappointed, and looking into who leaked the memo so he could take action and fire them.
But I want to come back to the fact that they felt that he needed to be told not to congratulate Putin, and had it emphasized. The memo also noted that he needed to ask about the 2016 election, and condemn, to Putin’s ear, the poisoning of the two Russians in Britain. He did neither. In fact, about the only thing he did that the memo dictated was the line, “Call Putin.”
In a related story, the G.O.P is officially the party of slime ridden filth as a neo-Nazi won a G.O.P primary in Illinois this week. Arthur Jones, a self described Nazi, White Supremacist, and holocaust denier (claiming that the holocaust was nothing more than an overblown non-event and an international extortion racket) was the only Republican to be listed on the ballot, and so won by default. The party was unable to gather enough support for any one else, leading to Jones getting the nomination. Even though the Republican party of Illinois has attempted to distance themselves from him, and have denounced him, they have unwittingly allowed this to happen, and now in 2018, there is a Nazi running for the Illinois state legislature. Just another sign that we’re heading in the wrong direction.
Cynthia Nixon of Sex in the City fame announced her bid to run in the Democratic primary against Incumbent Cuomo. Nixon, if she wins the primary and the race against the GOP candidate, would become the first openly gay governor of New York. However, she has been panned in the press for her lack of experience and the focus of her only campaign ad being on the City of New York, giving little attention the rest of the state. All of the shots with Nixon are shot in the city, while the shots of what she alludes to as the poorer parts of upper state New York are void of her presence, leading to criticism of a double standard. Regardless of the criticism, her challenge should prove to be an interesting race for Cuomo, and the nation.
Finally, John Dowd, personal lawyer to President Trump and head of Trumps defense against the Russia probe, resigned from the legal team Thursday Morning. The move comes after the controversial hiring of Joseph diGenova earlier in the week. The move shakes things up for Trump and his defense since it was Dowd who made the public statement over the weekend that the Mueller probe needed to be shut down. It appears that the cabinet is not the only group Trump is shaking up.
And that’s the headlines, or some of them, for this week…(exit soundbite)
Dr J Segment:
Ok –it is time to welcome my dear friend and colleague Dr. J. who is here to join me in a short discussion on the scurge that plagues so many teachers across the nation: smartphones and the mindless drones that hold them, our students. What’s up, man?
Before we move on to the final segment, I wanted to give a shot out to the UMBC Pioneers for the massive upset of Virginia last week. For the first time in NCAA history, a 16 seed pulled off the impossible and made it possible. It was never a matter of if, it was simply a matter of when. And now we have the when…
This weekend will host the March for our lives, check the interweb for your closest march if you want to support the movement started and continues to be sustained by those magnificent young people from Parkland. The inspiration of these young people is overwhelming.
Finally, My last segment this week is a bit of a personal one.
In August of 2017, the Economist ran a story that detailed a rather surprising and little known fact. The amount of alcohol related deaths was triple the amount of opioid related deaths in 2015 and 2016. Alcohol has become such a largely engrained part of our culture that we tend to overlook the disease of alcoholism, brushing it to the side until the alcoholic, in full surrender to the disease, disrupts our lives to a point that we demand action from them. It is a vicious time where loved ones are told to let the alcoholic alone, allow them to hit “bottom,” and then they will see the error and seek help on their own.
The road to the bottom is a rough and wild one, leaving a ton of damage, irreversible mistakes, and emotional destruction that makes a nuclear attack look tame. But once a bottom is reached, the alcoholic surrenders, either to recovery or to the disease and death.
Recovery, in turn, is just as challenging, and presents a lot of emotional unease, stress, and impatience that has to be fought on a day to day, sometimes hour to hour or minute to minute, basis. Loved ones of someone in recovery find life almost as difficult as life in active addiction at times, as chemicals and habits are reset, and attempts to fight off mental, physical, and imagined cravings becomes a battle inside the alcoholic’s mind, a fight that family and friends are unable to understand or sympathize with as they can only watch and bury themselves in hope.
A year ago, I chose not to engage any more in the disease. The past year has been a whirlwind of blurred moments combined with moments of clarity and personal discovery of things I had lost 25 years ago.
Alcoholism is a heavy burden that everyone around me has had to carry in some form or another, and recovery has been no different. There have been long days and longer nights this past year that I have kept hidden as I fought tirelessly to hold the monster at bay. I have lost cognitive abilities that are slowly coming back, memories of events that I swore I’d hold on to are lost, and learning new ways to deal with reality has become a very real physical and mental war waged every moment when my instinct is to flee to a bottle.
But recovery has also brought clarity, engagement in a world I’d forgotten, new memories I can hold onto, and health that has given me the energy I had lost has come back, slowly, but firmly. My affinity for music and writing is returning as I had lost the joy of creation. But most importantly, I am not damaging anything anymore.
Recovery has brought peace, but it did not come immediately. It took time. It took a lot of patience. It took a lot of retraining my way of thinking and engaging in the world.
Today I celebrate a year of sobriety. It is my triumph for my children, my wife, my family, and my dearest friends. But I live a day to day existence. I will not drink today. I cannot promise tomorrow or the next day, I can only promise today.
I couldn’t say it better…
And that’s the show for this week. Next week, we’ll have another fun look at the headlines from the week, Dr J will join me in discussing smart phones in the classroom, and so much more. For Dr J, I am The Barbour, thank you for coming by. Make it a great day, and always remember, as long as the sun rises there is opportunity.
This has been the Beta Files.